A vast area in coastal China was severely lashed by Super Typhoon Mangkhut over the weekend. A deadly storm that caused considerable disruptions and dozens of deaths in the Philippines, it brought drenching rains, powerful winds and massive waves when it made landfall in Hong Kong, Macau and China’s Pearl River Delta.
The frequency and intensity of tropical storms exposes the vulnerability of major cities in their path. Storm surges flooded low-lying neighborhoods in Hong Kong and Macau. Heavy rain triggered landslides, and fallen trees and power lines shut down highways and bridges.
Neighborhoods in Hong Kong and Macau looked like disaster zones after Mangkhut passed. Debris and broken windows were piled up in the streets. Residents lost electricity and were cut off from the outside world.
It was moving to see that firefighters and police officers worked together to rescue stricken residents.
Everyone has been grateful for the outpouring of compassion and support, but it is important for metropolises like Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen and Guangzhou to reflect on three lessons in disaster management in preparation for the future.
First, global climate change is making extreme weather the new normal everywhere. As the air warms up, the winds and downpours caused by typhoons become increasingly intense. A series of epic storms just brought everyone to their knees in the Philippines, and in North and South Carolina in the US.
Acknowledging this new climatic pattern, policymakers and real-estate developers along the Chinese coast should be more pragmatic in envisioning post-disaster redevelopment plans. Instead of compensating residents who lost homes and cars to Mangkhut, urban officials and developers should avoid building luxurious condominiums, skyscrapers and shopping malls in vulnerable flood zones.
Second, all municipal governments along the storm path must rethink the conventional framework of crisis management and initiate some institutional changes.
For decades, Macau has been flush with tax revenues from gambling. As the world’s wealthiest territory in terms of GDP per capita based on purchasing power parity (US$104,862 last year), its government’s massive budget surplus makes it the envy of any nation. Driven by a lax approach to governance, the ruling elites treat other residents like shareholders and give them generous cash handouts annually.
Hong Kong is more resilient to typhoons thanks to many decades of investment in underground drainage systems. Perhaps it is time for regional political and business leaders to use resources wisely, concentrating on sustainable infrastructure and weather-related disaster prevention.
Third, there was no outbreak of looting and crime in Hong Kong and Macau. Both territories remained calm and orderly. After the storm passed, volunteers came together to help victims.
Wherever self-mobilization took place in a disaster situation, it empowered local communities to take control of the problems. Regional authorities should welcome and encourage such compassionate and energetic efforts from civic society in a post-disaster recovery process.
One way is to formulate emergency evacuation plans and encourage everyone to be more self-reliant. Another is to divide emergency workers and medical professionals into small response teams with the tools and institutional support to deal with climate-related crises.
Only by focusing on the nuts and bolts of pre-disaster preparation and post-disaster reconstruction can these coastal cities cope with another devastating typhoon in the future.
Joseph Tse-Hei Lee is professor of history at Pace University in New York City.
Affected by the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries have implemented disease prevention measures such as city lockdowns, factory closures, travel restrictions and border controls. These resulted in slowing economic activitiy and dwindling global trade, which have negatively affected Taiwan’s export-reliant economy. Consequently, the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) last week revised downward its economic growth forecast for Taiwan for the second time this year. The DGBAS on Thursday predicted the nation’s GDP would expand 1.67 percent this year. The agency’s new forecast is lower than the 2.37 percent it estimated in February, and weaker than Taiwan’s economic
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in her inaugural address on May 20 firmly said: “We will not accept the Beijing authorities’ use of ‘one country, two systems’ to downgrade Taiwan and undermine the cross-strait status quo.” The Chinese government was not too happy, and later that day, an opinion piece on the Web site of China’s state broadcaster China Central Television said: “While Tsai’s first inaugural address four years ago was read by Beijing as an ‘unfinished answer sheet,’ the one she presented this time was even more below-par.” Speaking to the China Review News Agency, Shanghai Institutes for International Studies vice president
French firm DCI-DESCO in April won a bid to upgrade Taiwan’s Lafayette frigates, which has strained ties between China and France. In 1991, France sold Taiwan six Lafayette frigates and in 1992 sold it 60 Mirage 2000 fighter jets. To prevent arms sales between the nations, China negotiated an agreement with France and in 1994 in a joint statement, France promised that there would be no future arms sales to Taiwan. From China’s point of view, the DCI-DESCO deal constitutes a breach of the agreement, but the French stance is that it is not selling Taiwan new weapons, but instead providing a